U2 | Songs Of Surrender – Compilation Release Review

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U2’s sprawling Songs of Surrender consists of 40 re-recorded, mostly acoustic and “reinterpreted” versions of songs from the band’s catalog. Relying heavily on vocalist Bono and guitarist the Edge (who also produced the album), these more intimate reads were as much prompted by the unique challenges of recording during the lockdown as they were by Bono’s memoir, Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story, where he titled the book’s 40 chapters after an equal number of U2 songs.

Some things here work as grand experiments; others are bright, cool reimagines, as we get early on with the plucky single notes of electric piano behind Bono’s passionate vocal on “Where The Streets Have No Name,” acoustic piano lifting the early “Stories For Boys,” from the punk track it is on the band’s Boy album and “Every Breaking Wave, from Songs Of Surrender. Actually, there is lots of piano throughout.

One has got to give the band credit for rolling around their oeuvre, sometimes taking deep dives as much as surfacing on better known tunes. “Red Hill Mining Town,” from The Joshua Tree    as well as 2014’s non-album single “Invisible,” are here, as is “If God Will Send His Angels,” and stalworth acoustic guitar-driven reads like “Pride (In the Name of Love)” and “Sunday Bloody Sunday.”

Although he plays percussion throughout, drummer Larry Mullen, Jr. but does not play a full drum kit across these tunes. In fact, the Edge consulted previously recorded drum loops from the band’s drummer to create some of the beds here. This fact and the overall quieter studied approach the Edge and Boo take here finds Songs Of Surrender not so much a rockin’ album as it is a set of subdued new takes.

Always a rousing U2 concert staple, Songs Of Surrender ends with “40,” a song that ended lots of the band’s shows. This is certainly one of the stronger entries and it makes for a fine way to end a rather solid collection of songs we have all heard before. This time, U2 offers them in a whole new light.

~ Ralph Greco, Jr.

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